August 5, 2003

Colonel Robert A. Rowlette Jr.

District Engineer

U.S. Army Engineer District


P.O. Box 59

Louisville, Kentucky 40201

Attn: Ms. Brenda Carter CELRL-OP-FN

Dear Colonel Rowlette:

This document transmits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service=s (Service) biological opinion resulting from our review of the proposed issuance of a Section 404 permit for the Big Monon Ditch reconstruction project located in Pulaski, Starke and White Counties, Indiana. The biological opinion provides the Service=s evaluation of the effects of the project and permit issuance on the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), in accordance with section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Your January 7, 2003 request for formal consultation was received on January 13, 2003.

This biological opinion is based on: information provided in the September 11, 2001 biological assessment and the November 1, 2002 supplement to the biological assessment by the Monon Ditch Joint Drainage Board and its agent, Beam, Longest and Neff; numerous telephone conversations with your staff, the Joint Drainage Board, Beam, Longest and Neff, and the Joint Drainage Board=s attorney (Mr. Larry Vanore of Sommer and Barnard); field investigations; and other materials and sources of information. A complete administrative record of this consultation is on file at the Service=s Bloomington, Indiana Field Office.


Scott E. Pruitt

Field Supervisor

cc: Regional Director, USFWS, Twin Cities, MN (ES-TE) Attn: Jennifer Szymanski

Marty Maupin, IDEM, Water Quality Standards Section, Indianapolis, IN

Christie Kiefer, Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, Indianapolis, IN

Monon Ditch Joint Drainage Board, Winamac, IN

Larry Vanore, Sommer and Barnard Attorneys at Law, Indianapolis, IN

Steve Verseman, Beam, Longest and Neff, LLC, Indianapolis, IN

USFWS, Chesterton, IN

ES: Mlitwin/812-334-4261/August 5, 2003/Big Monon-BO


Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultation - Biological Opinion

Action Agency: US Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District

Action Considered: Issuance of Section 404 permit to the Monon Ditch Joint Drainage Board for a drainage improvement project on Big Monon Ditch in Pulaski, Starke and White Counties, Indiana

Consultation By: Region 3, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Date of Issuance: August 5, 2003

Consultation History

On July 14, 1998, staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) participated in a multi-agency meeting and site inspection for a proposed drainage improvement project on Big Monon Ditch. The meeting was held pursuant to Indiana State law regulating State agency review of proposed drainage maintenance projects. The Service attends such meetings when it appears that the project may require a Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), in order to coordinate our review and recommendations with those of the State natural resource agencies.

In its review letter of August 4, 1998 to the Joint Drainage Board=s agent, Beam, Longest and Neff (BLN), the Service stated that the project area contained suitable summer habitat for the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). The Service=s letter pointed out that while habitat along the project corridor is linear and narrow, the length of the project (approximate 30 miles) indicated that there was adequate riparian forest, small woodlots and connectivity along Big Monon Ditch and its tributaries to provide sufficient habitat to support a nursery colony of Indiana bats in the affected area. The Service recommended that a bat survey be conducted in connection with the probable future need for a Section 404 permit. In a follow-up letter of October 8, 1998 the Service provided a set of acceptable bat survey protocols and a recommended geographic scope of the survey (i.e. the project reach that contained suitable summer habitat for the Indiana bat). The geographic scope was identified as the reach from the mouth of Big Monon Ditch at Lake Shafer, upstream to Pulaski County Road 200 North (approximately 17 miles).

A bat survey was conducted August 1-10, 1999 by Jacqueline Belwood of the Ohio Biological Survey, with appropriate State and Federal permits. The survey report of October 8, 1999 stated that a post-lactating female Indiana bat was among the 262 bats captured during the survey, and concluded that a maternity roost was likely to be present nearby. The Indiana bat was captured at a site near the point where Big Monon Ditch and the original Big Monon Creek channel diverge, at Pulaski County Road 1100 West. Based on the survey results the Service sent a letter to BLN on November 2, 1999 stating a preliminary conclusion that the project as proposed at that time would result in a take of the Indiana bat (since virtually all habitat would be removed in the action area), and recommending project modifications to avoid take. The recommended modifications included avoidance of tree clearing in the best habitat at the downstream reach of the project, coupled with reduced tree-clearing in upstream areas.

On January 19, 2000 a coordination meeting was held between the Service, the Joint Drainage Board and BLN to discuss options. Follow-up letters by BLN and the Service addressed the issues discussed at the meeting, including suggested project modifications and approaches to satisfying requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Because it was not certain at that time that a federal permit would be needed for the project, participants discussed the option of applying for a Section 10 (a)(1)(B) incidental take permit under the ESA. A Section 10 permit would have required the applicant to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).

In a letter of June 1, 2000, in response to additional information provided by BLN, the Service submitted a more thorough evaluation of where the most significant Indiana bat habitat occurs in the action area, and revised its recommendations regarding what project modifications would be necessary to avoid a take of the listed species. The Service also specified additional information to assist in making a determination of impacts and measures that would be needed to minimize take.

On October 3, 2000 another meeting was held, including representatives of the Joint Drainage Board, BLN, the State natural resource agencies, the Service and the Corps of Engineers (Corps). Based on the exchange of information at that meeting the Corps determined that it would have jurisdiction over the entire project. In a follow-up letter of October 16, 2000 the Service indicated that formal consultation under Section 7 of the ESA would be the appropriate method of addressing ESA requirements.

In July, 2001 BLN provided a draft Biological Assessment (BA) to the Service for review. The Service sent a response in its letter of July 26, 2001, providing comments on the BA and recommendations concerning additional information that would be necessary to provide an adequate Section 7 evaluation. The final BA was completed in September, 2001 and a copy was provided to the Service on February 25, 2002. During the period the BA was being developed, the Service and BLN exchanged correspondence regarding options to minimize take of Indiana bats. Options discussed included design measures to preserve habitat, and replacement of habitat which would be destroyed by the project. The Service addressed these issues in its letters of September 19, November 14, and December 6, 2001.

On July 30, 2001 the Service initiated a telephone conversation with the Corps to discuss the Section 7 consultation process for the Big Monon Ditch project. Prior to this time, all correspondence and other coordination reflecting informal consultation had occurred between the Service and BLN (representing the Joint Drainage Board).[1] On March 18, 2002 the Corps notified the Service that it was considering authorization of the Big Monon Ditch project under a Nationwide Permit rather than an individual permit. The Corps stated that the change in permit type would not affect its handling of the Section 7 consultation process.

Between April and December, 2002 the Service participated in several coordination actions with BLN, the Joint Drainage Board and the Drainage Board=s legal representative, Sommer and Barnard Attorneys, regarding various aspects of project design and Section 7 consultation. This process included several telephone conversations, a meeting with the Joint Drainage Board and BLN on April 9, a meeting with Larry Vanore of Sommer and Barnard on June 21, and a site inspection/meeting with all parties on September 13. Later in September the Service was notified that work was proposed on approximately one mile of the original Big Monon Creek channel downstream from the point where Big Monon Ditch diverges from the original stream channel. This portion of the project was not covered by the BA submitted in July, 2001. On November 1 the Service received a Supplement to the BA, dated October, 2002 for the work on Big Monon Creek.

On November 26, 2002 the Service sent a letter to the Joint Drainage Board addressing previous comments by Mr. Vanore and notifying them that the Service had received sufficient information to proceed with formal Section 7 consultation. On December 17, after a review by the Joint Drainage Board and Mr. Vanore, copies of the letter were sent to the Corps and other relevant parties. The Corps of Engineers responded with a letter dated January 7, 2003 requesting the initiation of formal consultation. The Service responded in a letter of January 23, 2003 that it concurred with the conclusion and that formal consultation was initiated on the date the Corp=s letter was received.



The proposed action, as described in the BA and supplement, consists of a drainage improvement project on approximately 29 miles of Big Monon Ditch and one mile of the original Big Monon Creek channel downstream from the point where Big Monon Ditch diverges. The Action Area includes all areas along the subject waterways and tributaries where drainage improvement work and other construction will be conducted as part of this project contract, plus all adjacent areas which may experience indirect effects (e.g. tree loss resulting from construction-related root damage or from blow-down in newly exposed areas). The general project features include clearing of riparian vegetation, excavation within the stream channels, placement of riprap, repair or replacement of outlet structures, and construction of temporary sediment traps. Clearing of forested habitat within a specified reach of Big Monon Ditch is the project component which will result in a take of Indiana bats. The BA describes the project design as follows.

Big Monon Ditch

According to the BA the project scope is the reconstruction of Big Monon Ditch to its original 1940 profile and cross section (which would contain all runoff from the 100 year storm event within the ditch channel) . The project purpose is to reduce flooding on agricultural fields and to provide the Joint Drainage Board with better access for future maintenance work. Of several project alternatives considered, the selected alternative involves mechanical excavation by dragline within the ditch throughout the entire project length. The stream/ditch section which is of primary concern for loss of Indiana bat habitat extends from the ditch mouth upstream to Pulaski County Road 800 South (the Aarea of effects@). The Service concluded that project-related habitat loss in this section would result in a take of the Indiana bat, and recommended design alternatives which would have avoided take of the Indiana bat, however the Joint Drainage Board rejected them as being inadequate to fulfill the project purpose. The Service=s recommended alternatives focused on avoidance of continuous tree clearing on both banks within the area of effects, either by reduction in the project scope or through use of a portable hydraulic dredge working from within the channel. The Joint Drainage Board=s reasons for rejecting these option were: 1) failure of the project to provide adequate flood relief if excavation is eliminated from the area of effects; 2) the difficulty and expense of disposal of dredge spoil from a portable dredge to sites above and away from the steep, high forested banks; 3) the project scope=s requirement for removal of all trees below the 100-year flood elevation to allow for unobstructed flow; and 4) the difficulty of future maintenance work by boat from within the channel.

Under the Joint Drainage Board=s preferred plan, all excavation work in the area of effects would be accomplished from the east/north bank, and all vegetation would be removed from that bank from the lowest growth elevation up the bank slope and eastward to the landward edge of the 75-foot drainage easement. On the west/south bank, existing vegetation would be removed from its lowest elevation of growth up the bank slope to the 100 year flood elevation (a short distance), leaving undisturbed all woody vegetation above and west of that point. Most of the subject vegetation to be removed consists of mature growth of several species of hardwood trees. The estimate in the Biological Assessment for total area of trees to be cleared for ditch reconstruction is 68 acres of 139 total acres within the subject stream reach, with additional tree loss from removal of leaning trees and from construction of temporary sediment traps as required in the State of Indiana=s floodway permit.

Upstream from County Road 800 South all work would be accomplished in accordance with state permits (typically all excavation work would be done from one stream bank), with all vegetation to be removed from the 75 foot easement on the work side and from both bank slopes. This would result in the removal of virtually all woody vegetation from the Big Monon Ditch corridor since tree growth is mostly limited to the bank slopes in this reach, however small amounts of riparian woody vegetation would remain along some tributaries and a few small woodlots near the ditch corridor. This additional habitat loss is not included in the Incidental Take Statement because: 1) No Indiana bats were captured at several mist net sites upstream from the divergence of the old Big Monon Creek channel at County Road 1100 West (the site of the single Indiana bat capture); and 2) The distance from the Indiana bat capture site upstream to County Road 800 South is approximately two miles, which is a typical maximum distance that the Indiana bat captured during the bat survey would have flown from the capture site.